Becoming — and finding — the next climate GTM executive

The climate industry today is attracting more and more top-tier talent. Motivated by the ability to contribute to something that can literally change the world, an increasing number of executives are leaving big tech and other lucrative industries to make the leap into climate — many are seeking roles that provide alignment between personal beliefs and work life. As Todd Greenhalgh of SPMB Executive Search aptly said, “Climate allows you to bring the purpose element to a job and attract candidates that would not have otherwise looked at it.”

Whether you are looking to become or hire the next climate go-to-market (GTM) executive, here are our observations on the rapidly growing market today:

  • Given the industry’s relative youth, previous climate experience is not a prerequisite for getting hired at many companies. For candidates, this means that anyone interested in the space should seriously consider pursuing it. For those hiring, this means that calibrating profiles is even more important. Leaders need to analyze the tradeoff between hiring someone with domain expertise versus someone that knows what a great GTM playbook looks like from non-climate companies. 
  • There is high demand for GTM leaders with SaaS experience, ideally someone who has been at one or more companies that have seen scale and understands the SaaS GTM motion and playbooks.
  • Most climate founders have little operating experience in revenue generation at scale. It is critically important that the search partner spends time up front with the leadership team to determine what they are solving for and educating them in the process. In many instances, a climate founder’s background and skill set differs dramatically from a classic SaaS leader. 
  • Candidates are self-selecting out of the climate search process much earlier (after a first round interview or initial recruiter screen) than non-climate GTM searches. Our hypothesis is that many candidates are less familiar with certain market segments, and lack confidence in the sales motion required to convert customers
  • In a market where valuations are under more scrutiny, mutual due diligence (by candidate and company) is more critical, which is leading to longer search processes.
  • Onboarding may take longer with candidates who do not have domain expertise. In order to ensure a successful transition, leaders need to put in the time and set up the candidate with all the resources they need to become educated in the field and/or the product.

At Galvanize, we look for the following additional competencies in potential GTM climate executives for our portfolio companies:

  • For those without climate experience, a track record of selling a variety of products or working with a similar customer set is helpful. This serves as an indicator that shows curiosity and that you will likely not be intimidated by learning and then selling something new. 
  • Mission alignment. We are seeking candidates who show strong mission orientation from prior academic experiences, involvement in environmental concerns at a local or community level, making choices outside of work that reflect a prioritization on carbon reduction, etc. 
  • Prior experience leading an organization through the phase of scale that the hiring company is going through.
  • Proof that you can roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work. Whether that is working at a startup or high growth company or past experience in a lean entrepreneurial environment or team if at a larger company: proof of “get stuff done” (GSD) is essential.
  • Regardless of title, being a flexible team player. From the C-suite down, most early-stage climate companies have to rely on all positions to be key and nimble players across operations.
  • Metrics driven: sales leadership needs to live and die by achieving quantified goals, like topline sales and margins. You need to show an ability to establish those frameworks and achieve tangible results against those metrics.
  • Being customer-obsessed. The best sales leaders are committed to serving our customers, give us those examples.